The Thing with Feathers Flies Away

The bird who recently built its nest
in the drainpipe is either very optimistic –
or foolish. I feel that hopeful optimism
is foolish in these darkly troubling times.
Maybe the thing with feathers is optimism.

bird in pipe

The title and final line here is a nod to Emily Dickinson’s poem in which the thing with feathers is hope in the form of a bird who seems unabashed by any troubles around it.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Scarlet Experiments

It’s what we do to birds, poems,
relationships – we cut them open – to expose
inner secrets and try to figure out
how it works or why it doesn’t.
In the end, we murder to dissect.

 

bird skull

Bird skull image by Ian Lindsay from Pixabay


Emily Dickinson’s poem “Split the Lark” refers to the “scarlet experiment.” I had to look up that reference. It is a term applied to when scientists destroy a bird or any creature in order to learn more about it. As Emily says, you can’t find the music inside the bird.

“Split the Lark – and You’ll find the Music –
Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled –
Scantily dealt to the Summer Morning
Saved for your Ear, when Lutes be old –
Loose the Flood – you shall find it patent –
Gush after Gush, reserved for you –
Scarlet Experiment! Skeptic Thomas!
Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?”
(Dickinson 391)

I read about this in Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America which also looks at how some writers, including Emily, use birds in their literature.

“We murder to dissect” comes from a poem by William Wordsworth, “The Tables Turned”

“Sweet is the lore which nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Misshapes the beauteous forms of things;
—We murder to dissect.”

Both poems consider how we analyze to the point of destroying things in nature. In my poem, I consider how we also do it with relationships.

Migration

“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” –  Lao Tzu

Photo by Somya Dinkar on Pexels.com

The birds are leaving for winter places
on this, my birthday. I’m staying here.
The seasons are changing. So will I.
I don’t know my destination or if
I will return here. So it is.

Meditation on Birdsongs

Black-capped_Chickadee

Black-capped_Chickadee at a suet feeder

The welcoming sunlight forced my eyes closed – 
into meditation mode: white-throated sparrow’s simple notes
of three/four; harsh jay’s single screech bu
no Barred Owl’s “Who cooks for you.”
Sets of three-noted refrains – Black-capped Chickadees feeding.

 


I have been trying in recent years to be able to identify some common avian visitors to my neighborhood by their songs. “Songs” may seem grandiose for some of these simple notes. I suspect they are melodic sentences, though they do seem to repeat a chorus or refrain. You can hear these songs at allaboutbirds.org. Perhaps, some birds write haiku, while others prefer free verse or their own kind of villanelles.

Murmurations of Grace

October starlings flocking in swooping, harmonious groups.

Thousands of birds in murmurations above me.

Communicating at a higher level than me.

I will never swirl in the air

or on Earth with such innate grace.

 


If you’re curious about the wonder or the science of murmurations, I have written elsewhere about those aspects.